The traditional “look but don’t touch” style of farm safety education is being turned on its head through a new project.
The Child Safety Education Coalition (CSEC) and Farming and Countryside Education (FACE) have teamed up to run the programme, which is being piloted on five farms in the Midlands from this month. The aim is to use farm visits to help children develop skills to prevent unintended injuries to themselves and others, not just on farms but elsewhere in the countryside and in life generally.
School trips to farms are common for children aged from seven to 13-years-old. Traditionally, visits have been characterised by rigorous safety guidelines, lists of dos and don’ts and the removal of hazards. However, with the number of fatal and non-fatal injuries to farm workers and visitors changing little in recent years, CSEC and FACE have decided to try a different style – practical safety education.
The new project will encourage both children and farmers to take a more active approach to safety, letting children interact with farm hazards in a controlled environment.
One of the activities sees children assessing the risks of various locations around a farm. Children also get the chance to spot places in which safety guidelines have gone over the top and are disproportionate to the real risk.
Interacting with animals, including approaching and feeding them, is covered in a range of activities, as is staying safe in the field - a topic which includes water safety and the identification of poisonous plants and berries. Barn and machinery safety and the importance of good hand washing also feature in the project.
Jason Cole, CSEC co-ordinator, said: “The traditional stance in farm safety is to hide dangers from children, but we want to encourage hands-on experiences that give children the chance to think about and practise skills that will keep them safe. We’re hoping the children will leave the farms, not only having had a fun day but with a set of injury prevention skills that they can take into other parts of life. Things like stopping to think about the risks of a particular location are not actions reserved for the farm, but are valuable for all children as they choose places to play and as they get older and encounter a different set of hazards.”
In 2007/08, 42 people (39 workers and three members of the public) suffered fatal injuries in agricultural settings in Britain. None of these fatalities involved under-16s. However, in 2006/07, of the 43 people killed in farming settings, four were children.
Brian Hainsworth, of FACE, said: “At FACE, we are keen that all children are given the opportunity to learn about food and farming in our beautiful countryside. This project goes some way to provide them with the tools to stay safe when they are out and about. Unless children have the chance to engage with farms and rural settings as they actually are, then we are doing them a disservice. Not only might they go on to choose careers or live in rural settings, but we hope they will spend more leisure time there as they grow up appreciating farming and the countryside for all it has to offer. Giving them a set of skills to stay safe is truly something of value for their entire life.”
Unintended injuries are the leading cause of death and serious injury in 0 to 19 year olds. CSEC is a coalition of member organisations which work together to promote practical education in England to help children and young people protect themselves and others from five types of unintended injury: road traffic injuries, drowning, poisoning, burns and scalds and trips and falls. It is hosted by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents.
For more information about CSEC, including details of how to become a member, see www.csec.org.uk.